Since then, I have enjoyed following one of the most successful programs in the history of college sports. From 1998 until now, Duke has played in 4 Final Fours, won 2 National Championships, and 10 ACC Championships. Actually, there is only one season in that time period that could qualify as being "disappointing," which was the 2006-07 season when the Blue Devils struggled to a 22-11 record and were bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Other than one tough year, it has been a great ride as a Duke fan and it's great to be a fan of a team who receives so much hatred because of their standard of success. And that standard exists because Mike Krzyzewski refuses to settle for anything less.
At one point during last night's game against North Carolina, I wrote on Facebook that this year's team is the most frustrating Duke team I can remember. The 2006-07 squad was frustrating, but I think it was more of a case of one player being incredibly frustrating - I still can't stand you, Josh McRoberts. But this year's team can be maddening at because it feels like they have so much potential. Tyler Thornton can't play tough defense without fouling. Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee back down from any sort of physical play in the paint. Andre Dawkins has more ability than anyone on the court but can't keep his head in the game. And Seth Curry is hesitant to be the incredible scorer everyone knows he can be. This team doesn't lack ability - but they seem to struggle in areas related to effort, confidence, and chemistry. Thank goodness they are coached by the game's best.
Coach K knows how to bring the best out of his players. That's why Duke was able to come back last night against UNC when it seemed like all odds were against them. Coach K is able to instill a belief in his players that they are never out of a game, and one or two key plays could shift the momentum. A belief that leads to Tyler Thornton hitting a clutch 3 to start the comeback after he'd missed his previous 5 attempts. A belief that leads to Mason Plumlee coming up with a huge steal after he'd been destroyed by Tyler Zeller in the post for most of the game. And a belief that gave Austin Rivers (Can he please now be basketball's version of The Honey Badger?!) the confidence to stick the dagger in UNC's heart with an improbable buzzer beater. This is why Duke players believe they can win any game - even if they don't always pull off the comeback. And this is a big part of why it's so great to be a Duke fan. Because with Coach K at the helm, no matter who they play...I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!